Radio Round with Akiem: iHeartmedia (formerly Clear Channel) buys WFNX/Boston’s Signal, Is Rock Format Dead? Now What?

by Kevin Ross - Posted: May 20, 2012 at 11:54 pm, Category: URBAN

WFNXWFNX goes from alternative rock station to simply”¦.ashes.
In a move reported by Boston Radio Watch as well as a host of other media websites & New England news outlets, Stephen Mindich & the Boston Phoenix Media organization announced a deal to sell off the 101.7 frequency to iHeartmedia (formerly Clear Channel) Media.
When the deal was announced, the whole staff of the radio station (save for 4) was laid off. The estimated amount of the sale is a cool $11 million and is pending FCC approval. Rumours have been flying as to what new format will debut on 101.7 as the WFNX intellectual property, trademark, etc. will remain with the Phoenix. Likely, this means that Mindich/Phoenix will continue operating WFNX as an internet station.
WFNX Fans Shocked!
The news stunned Alternative fans around the City of Beans, especially those who grew up listening to long time WFNX stalwart Julie Kramer. It was not lost among those loyal FNX fans with Twitter accounts. One is operating an “Occupy FNX” Twitter feed””akin to when multiple “Occupy KGO” feeds were present after their late year massacre last year. A petition on Change.org has denounced the upcoming demise of the radio station as well. The petition has nearly 2,000 signatures.
So, What’s The New Format?
 Rumours are all over the place as to what iHeartmedia (formerly Clear Channel) plans to place on their newly acquired 101.7 spot in Beantown. At first, it was mentioned that it would go Spanish. This would mean either as a Regional Mexican or joining the “La Preciosa” network of Spanish Oldies stations it has in 6 other markets.
Then, speculation turned to 101.7 becoming Boston’s second Country station & being parked right by Greater Media‘s 102.5 WKLB. In the April PPMs, CC’s CHR WXKS-FM Kiss 108 was by far and away the #1 station with an 8.6. Number 2 was WKLB at 7.2, but WKLB was outcumed by CBS‘s Hot AC WBMX-FM Mix 104.1″”with a 3.7. That, of course, means that those who were listening to WKLB were listening only to WKLB.
I mention this because based on the April PPM figures, the only thing a Country station at 101.7 would accomplish (if anything in a market like Boston) would be to give iHeartmedia (formerly Clear Channel) the top 2 rated stations (both CHRs) in Kiss & Rhythmic CHR Jam’n 94.5 WJMN. Number 3 would likely be Magic 106.7″”a Greater Media AC.
Now, the word on the street is that 101.7 will begin simulcasting WXKS-AM Talk 1200. One would have to wonder what call letters would be assigned to 101.7 in such an event. Of course, the WXKS calls are on Kiss 108 as well. And they can’t keep the WFNX calls, so one has to wonder what calls will be assigned to 101.7.
Maybe WGJS””for “We Got Jay Severin!”
Overall, ratingswise, conservative talk is not exactly a hot topic in liberal Boston. Out of the 5 News and News/Talk stations that I looked at, CBS‘s WBZ-AM 1030 is the number one “spoken word” station in the market. They air News during most dayparts and Talk at night. Second is 90.9 WBUR””Boston’s NPR station. NPR stations are usually ratings winners.
The two conservative talk stations are in, what I like to call, Boston’s “junior varsity” of talkers. Greater Media‘s WTKK 96.9 & Entercom’s WRKO 680 AM are well behind WBZ & WBUR. Surprisingly, WWZN 1510 (now branding itself as “The Boston Revolution”) is barely showing up on the ratings charts even as a progressive station with a Class B 50,000 watt directional signal.
But, WWZN was barely relevant as a horrible excuse of a competitor to WEEI when it was a sports station.
Is the Rock Format Really Dead?
 What about WFNX, though? While not much about ratings, or signals, WFNX did have a huge blueprint in the Boston area. In many ways, it was the Alternative station for the Massachusetts Bay in a city that is presumably friendly to rock bands and rock stations. But, this isn’t the first time a Boston rock institution has succumbed to the cutthroat business that is corporate-run radio.

It may be 3 years ago, but it’s still fresh in the minds of many Bostonians how 104.1 WBCN left the Massachusetts airwaves in 2009. Despite a bright spot in their morning show of Fred Toettcher & Rich Shertenlieb (Toucher & Rich), BCN was seemingly replaced by Entercom’s Rock WAAF 107.3/97.7. At one time, WBCN had served as the Boston affiliate for Howard Stern.

Read Part Two Tomorrow.